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Central California snow weekend?
Hoping someone can recommend a good spot for a snow weekend
in January, more or less equidistant between Oakland and
Santa Barbara with activities for school-age kids and teens
(skiing not required, but tubing and sledding would be
nice). We'd love to rent a cabin but could survive in a
motel. No camping! Sequoia would be perfect except that
Google maps says it's a five-hour drive. Anyone know of
anything a little closer? Thank you!
You're going to have a tough time finding any place that
fits your bill. The only real option that is closer than
Sequoia without putting the Santa Barbara people on a 6+
hour drive is Badger Pass in Yosemite. The next closest to
you but significantly farther for them is Arnold/Bear
Valley. Tim Mc.
Snow fun for kids near Truckee
We are taking our young kids on their first snow trip, and
are staying in Truckee. Would love some recommendations for
a fun place to sled (as in rent a sled or disc and use it
there) with the kiddos. Been skiing in Tahoe a million
times pre-kids, but never just sledding. Thanks!
2 winters ago we went to a great sledding hill in a State
Park near the lake. It was a about 20-30 'minutes from
Truckee in a beautiful park. The cost was minimal and the
hill was small enough for our little ones and big enough for
the adults too! The had saucers available for use, dogs we
allowed too which was great for us and there were some
tables to pic nic on. I cant recall the name of the park but
it was by far better than the sno parks and really pleasant.
My kids have been asking to go to play in the snow. I have
heard friends driving eight hours to go to Tahoe in the
snow. Does any one know any snow park close-by? Some
where that doesn't require long driving or snow chain.
Thanks in advance, Lisa
We used to take our kids to Camp Sacramento at Twin Bridges
on Highway 50.
Here is a link to a discussion about it:
I think your best bet is Highway 50. Buy a one-day snow park
pass (local ski shops sell them or you can buy it at gas
stations along the way) and keep driving until you see a
You should still carry chains. It is a *snow' park after
Well, it's four hours to the shore of Lake Tahoe - and you
hit snow country well before you hit the lake itself - so
anyone who spent eight hours getting there was stuck in a
pretty epic traffic jam. Which happens; it's happened to
me. Sometimes they have to close the roads entirely. I'll
leave recs for snow play areas to others, but, *in good
traffic and weather,* two hours or so from Oakland/Berkeley
will get you to a high enough elevation that it snows.
There is no closer snow than that (except for those
unpredictable times it snows in Tilden!). Good traffic and
weather is obviously the catch. If you can be flexible in
your travel plans, just watch the snow and weather reports
and commit to your trip when you see a good weekend on the
horizon. If things are iffy, though, in bad weather, if you
are going to the snow, that means there will be snow on the
roads, and that means chains (although if you have AWD, you
shouldn't have to use them). Snowbound
I've taken my son to Sugar Bowl near Donner Summit up Hwy 80
for a day in the snow. If you're not driving in a snowstorm
or right after one it takes about 3hrs from the Bay Area.
They have a little kids snow park, great tubing hills for
the bigger guys,reasonable prices and a lodge. Nice because
you don't need to buy your own snow toys. If you go to Tahoe
it shouldn't take 8 hrs, more like 4-5hrs and you won't need
chains (unless of course you're going on a holiday weeklend
or in a storm). They keep the highways well plowed even if
it does snow. There are a few free snow parks around Kyburz
and Strawberry (before Echo summitt)- just bring a sled.
However, no snow yet But always bring chains just in case
when you're headed to the mountains. Let it snow
Low-Key Snow Area for Kids
I'm looking for a low-key snow area to take my 2 year old
this winter. My family does not ski, but we would love to
have the opportunity to build snowmen, have a hill with a
small incline for sleding, etc. We're not really interested
in a fancy ski resort, in fact if it is far from a resort
that would be a plus. We would like to find a place that we
can drive to (e.g. the Sierras) and that will have a lot of
family fun. A First Snow Day
Soda Springs: http://www.skisodasprings.com/
Easy to get up there and back in a day, unattractive to all
but the most basic skiers and their patient families
(despite what their website may suggest!), very family
friendly, inexpensive, old-school resort. Also not a skier
We visited the Mt. Shasta area over President's Day weekend
last year and it was perfect for us and our two children
ages 2 and 5. I must confess that no one in our family had
been to a place with falling snow before, and that we were
grateful that it snowed only a little bit which made driving
conditions easy for us rookies. We stayed at the Best
Western Tree House right on Highway 5 and it was perfect for
everyone especially because kids can play in small snow
areas at the hotel plus they have an indoor heated pool for
other family fun. The town of Mt. Shasta is cute and has
some places to eat and shop. For more snow fun, we visited
'Snowman's Hill' and it turned out that our young kids were
perfectly content playing at the bottom of the hill rather
than trudging up; the snow was fluffy and soft and fun to
jump in. There were kids of all sizes everywhere, some
sledding and discing. going back
One good option for snow play is up Highway 4. Between
Arnold and Bear Valley resort, there were (in previous
years) a couple of spots along the highway where you could
park and play on the side of the road. Plenty of room for
snowmen, and some small hills for sledding. Depending on how
long it has been since snow, the sledding tracks may be
carved out already.
Another option we did one year is to stay at the Dorrington
Hotel. It is an old hotel in that area. They have a big
'backyard' which you can play in, and at the time, they had
piled up snow to create a hill to sled on. No frills hotel
Also places to stay in Arnold, or B&B in Murphys is an
option. A few cabin rentals in the area too. A benefit of
that area is it is closer to the Bay Area somewhat than Lake
Tahoe, and traffic is much lighter, especially coming home
on a Sunday. Bryan in Oakland.
Nearby sledding and nice place to stay?
There have been a few suggestions for places to go sledding
recently, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
I'm looking for a place that is about 2 or 3 hours away from
the East Bay area. We just want a low key place to go
sledding with our five year old. The problem is that my
husband is a complete hotel snob, and only wants to stay at
a really nice place (and he won't stay at B&Bs). Most of
the places I see near sledding are rustic-type cabins,
motels or B&Bs. We want a place where we can stay one
night. In search of snow
I recommend staying at a 'nice' place in the foothills and
then just go up for a few hours of sledding rather than
staying close to the snow. A 5 year old isn't ready to be
out all day in the snow.
That way everyone is happy.
We like going to the SnoParks becaues the parking lot is
plowed and other people are around. You need a parking
permit which you can buy at local sporting goods stores.
The best place to go sledding is Cisco Grove. Period. They
have good runs, a magic carpet which is key to keep you from
having to drag the kids back up the hill (don't fool
yourself, they will want you to pull them up), and it is the
closest place. If you want infrastructure nearby, then you
are talking about Squaw (the Inn at Squaw Creek is very
nice). Next would be Heavenly. Heavenly has a family snow
park with a magic carpet, but it also involves a gondola
pass for each family member. Have fun!
For the person looking for sledding near a posh hotel,
Ritz-Carleton just opened a new resort right near Northstar
at Tahoe. There are a number of great places for sledding
within a 30 minute drive -there are sno-parks at Yuba Gap
and Donner, lots of tubing/sledding at Grandlibaken and Soda
Springs, as well as lots of trails and a small sledding hill
at North Tahoe Regional Park. Don't forget that you'll be
spending most of your time outdoors and not in the hotel.
Might be a good time to branch out and try something a
little more rustic. Hope you have a great trip, no matter
where you stay! michelle
Try Sledding in Strawberry. You could stay at the Strawberry
Inn for a night. Across the street you can walk in and sled
in the woods. It's beautiful! I have never stayed at the inn
myself (a friend of mine did and said it was fine) as we
usually rent a cabin in Twain Harte or Miwok Village and
drive up to Strawberry. We always go to the restaurant at
the Strawberry Inn after for hot chocolate and lunch or
dinner. You can also sled at Little Sweden but it's right
off of the road, a bit of a big hill and FAST for a 5 year
old. The drive to Miwok is just under 3 hours, so it's
probably just over 3 hours to Strawberry. We usually stop in
Oakdale to break up the drive. Enjoy! Another sledding
My kids are older now (we ski and snowboard) but before they
were skiing age, I used to take them sledding. In my
experience, I would avoid the snow parks (Yuba Gap, etc.)
along Hwy 80--they're low- cost; as a result, hordes of
people are there, there is no designated traffic moderator
on the hill, and adults are mixed in with little kids...I've
seen more adult-kid collisions on the sledding hills than
I've seen now that we're skiing/boarding at resorts. On a
slow day, I suppose the snow parks can be OK.
If you're thinking of heading on Hwy 80 toward Truckee, the
Soda Springs ski area is fun for snow play. You have to pay
to get in, although it is still pretty reasonable. There's
a designated little kid area called 'Planet Snow' that has
some snow activities (you can even get them on skis and
point them down a small ramp). They have a snow tubing
flume for bigger folks, but no typical sledding hill,
though. I don't think you can bring your own sleds.
For an overnight stay, the best 'nice hotel' accommodations
nearby is the Hampton Inn in Truckee. Hot breakfast in the
Near Tahoe City, there's Granlibakken, and they have their
own sledding hill. They charge $10 per person to use it (I
recall, if you're just standing around and not actually
sledding, I don't think you have to pay), so it is less
crowded than the snow park free-for-alls. The hill is not
moderated though and we were there once and our adult friend
got into a pretty bad collision (not his fault, the guy took
off without even saying sorry), and THEN they sent an
employee out to moderate traffic the hill! So we haven't
been back. We didn't stay there overnight, but I think
Granlibakken has nice accommodations also.
Put a lid (either ski or bike helmet) on your child and have
Serene Lakes has a great sledding hill-the Ice lakes Lodge
is a very nice lodge nearby, which I'm sure would meet your
husband's standards. look them up on the web, and they can
tell you about the sledding hill.
Looking for CHEAP weekend getaway with snow
My husband and I both grew up in cold climates and some of
our fondest childhood memories are of playing in the snow.
Our daughter is now 5 and have never so much as seen real
snow, much less touched it, played in it, or built a
snowman. We really want her to experience that and are
looking for a way to take a short (2 or 3 day)
trip...somewhere. It doesn't really matter where as long as
there is snow. The problem, however, is that we don't have a
car (so we need somewhere accessible by plane or train) and
as we are student parents, we need something as inexpensive
as possible. So my questions are:
1. What would be an inexpensive destination for us to show
our daughter snow?
2. When would be a good time to go, both in terms of price
We've had lots of fun with the kids snow tubing. There are a
number of places to go. Here's a link:
Also, Dodge Ridge is pretty close. You can stay in
Strawberry. There are also affordable bus trips for the day,
if you want to go early and come back in the evening with no
driving, a sure plus! Most hills have kiddie as well as
junior hills, and pull ropes to get back up the hills. You
can bring a picnic lunch. There are usually lunch rooms that
sell lunch or tables where you can bring in lunch (all
together at Dodge Ridge.) Lots of fun for all ages. Jane
Inexpensive Weekend Sledding Trip
My soon to be 10 year old son wants to go to the snow for
his birthday. Can anyone recommend a reasonably priced
place in the snow for a family of 4? We stayed at a friends
place in Tahoe last year and loved it because the kids could
go sledding right out the back door.
Are there any places to rent like that either in Tahoe or
someplace else with snow within a few hours drive?
We want to go in early January, is it hard to find rentals
at this point?
Thanks for any help!
We had a great weekend in the snow last year at Long Barn
Lodge in Long Barn (E. of Bay Area) Check them out at
www.longbarn.com. They have a hotel and cabins and an ice
skating rink. We found great sledding by pulling off the
highway a little farther up in the mountains. Some of the
cabins have kitchens but there are not many food options if
you stay in the hotel. Peri
We have gone to Clair Tappan Lodge, run by the Sierra Club
for years and love it. My first trip there was in 1960 and
it has changed very little. There is a sledding hill in the
back, lots of families with kids, Xcountry ski and snowshoe
rental on site and trails out the back door. The lodge
staff cooks and each person does a chore. The lodge is not
fancy at all and was built in the '30's. It has a 'secret
passage' in the basement, alot of stairs and it's a walk up
the hill from old Hiway 40. You can get a family room or a
cubical for 2; all the beds are bunk style and you bring
your own sleeping bag. Cost is about $50/night/person meals
included. see http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/lodges/ctl/
CTL kid at 60
Hi, we're looking for a weekend snow adventure for 2 and 4
year olds. We rented a house in Soda Springs last year, and
sledded on the local hill. That was a nice area, but now I
think we'd like a better place to sled, but don't want to
shell out the bucks for the Soda Springs Snow Park, since
our kids are too young to take advantage of all its
features....So, any recommendations of good snow
parks/places for sledding? Also, if you know of a nice
rental house to go along with it for 6 adults and 4 kids,
that would be useful too.
Ready to sled
We've had good luck in the past going up Highway 4. Pretty
close to the bay area, much less traffic issues than Hwy 80.
Up above the snow line, right on Hwy 4, there are usually a
couple spots where people can pull off the road and sled
down the hill between the trees, make a snow man, and enjoy
the snow for free. I think there is also an official place
to pay for sledding further up the mountain, but I can't see
paying for it when there is so much free snow around.
One year when our child was 3 we stayed at the Dorrington
Inn, which is right up in that area. it is an old hotel, and
the rooms were small, but adequate. But the place has a big
''back yard'' for playing in the snow, and they sort of
''groom'' the driveway for sledding.
There is a sports place in Arnold right off the highway to
Bryan in Oakland
We are new to the area and plan to take our 4 girls (ages
10, 7, 3 and 1/2, and 7 months) to the Tahoe area over
winter break. We found a ''Ski Soda Springs'' web site that
seems to have lots of activities geared towards younger
kids with no skiing experience (our girls have no skiing
experience). Tubing, snow park, etc.
Has anyone gone to this park? What did you like or
dislike? Advice? We are just looking for a day of fun snow
play and tubing - nothing too adventurous but something
1st time to Tahoe
Soda Springs is both the name of an area/small town and the name of the Soda
Springs resort both at the Donner Summit exit(not Donner Lake exit) off of I80.
It's the closest ski area to the Bay Area and great to travel to with small
children as it is a shorter drive. Our family has owned a lakeside cabin, where
we vacation, on Serene Lakes, part of Soda Springs, for 20+ years and when our
kids were small we usually went to SS resort as it was more suitable for kids and
easier to get around than Sugarbowl, with easier runs for the kids. They also
have kids ski classes. A few years ago they started to have tubing and a little
kids play area with a carousel and some other stuff. Our kids were over the moon
with the new additions, especially the tubing where parents can see them sliding
over the course. An adult would have to go with a very small child. Generally the
resort is small enough to be child and family friendly and it is unlikely your
child will be mowed down by another skier(as happened to one of our kids at
Sugarbowl once, but he enjoyed being carted off by the paramedics). I think Soda
Springs is a great place to visit with kids for a first time snow experience. We
have 4 kids also and we could keep an eye on them quite easily there. Kids under
8 used to get free lift tickets but you would have to check that now(our kids are
We're looking for a 3+ or 4 bedroom place to stay in the Sierras over a weekend in Feb
or March (3 or 4 nights). We just want to introduce our young children to the snow!
(2 or 3 families
involved) We don't need to be too close to any of the ski resorts. We are interested
in the greater Tahoe area or Arnold/Bear Valley (or anywhere else with good
sledding!). We're very responsible and would treat any property with respect.
Any suggestions for great places to stay?
We've enjoyed staying in this cabin in South Lake Tahoe. It's
great for kids in the winter because there is a hill right
across the street perfect for sledding, snow fort building
etc. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs and the
same set up upstairs, so it's a great set up for a family or to
share with two families.
Snow loving family
This is a very family-friendly house in Truckee. The owners
little kids. The house has a pack-n-play, and little chairs
tables. Tahoe Donner is a very small ski place, so it is
for beginners. Our kids, who are 9 and 11, skiied all day with
their friends. You can also easily fit more than one family in
that house. The drive is 3 hours or so. We also enjoy going
there in the summer when the kids can enjoy Donner lake,
biking, and pool swimming.
Truckee is fun!
This is, of course, last minute, but are there any members out there who have a
place (cabin or house) up in the snow that is available for rent during the week of
Spring Break (April 6-10)? I do not even know whether there will still be snow
that week, but I promised my kids we would go this year, and we haven't made it up
there yet. We are looking for a place any of the days between Weds, April 8 and
Saturday, April 11. We are two parents, and two kids, ages 4 and 7. We do not
have a dog. A big, expensive place is out of our range, but something reasonable
would be great. Do you have such a place? Or alternatively, do you have a place
to recommend? Thanks.
This spring break we discovered a new home-away-from-home in
South Lake Tahoe, when we stayed at 412 Barrett Drive, high in
the mountains just above the lake. The weather was wonderfully
changeable -- one day it was warm and sunny and we played on the
beach; then next couple of days it snowed and snowed and snowed,
so we made a snowperson outside, then warmed up in the hot tub
and sat around the fireplace. My kids loved having two floors
and 6 rooms to run around in -- and acres of trees all around.
The view was fantastic; every window featured tall trees laden
with snow -- until it all melted on the last day we were there.
It was wonderful!
to read the 412 Barrett Drive main and guest websites:
We'd like to go to the snow this year. Does anyone have a
suggestion for a good place to go? Something small and not too
busy...where we can rent the stuff we need. Not necessarily to
ski, but to play and sled and maybe ski if it comes up. We have
two children under 4 years, and are trying to avoid the huge
I LOVE Rustic Cottages in Tahoe Vista. Don't expect anything
beautiful but for the price and the friendly service, it's great.
They are little cottages with kitchenettes. You can borrow from
their movie library, go into their common area and make waffles. In
the morning they have fresh muffins and in the afternoon /evening
they have fresh cookies and hot cocoa. They have sleds and saucers
you can borrow and you can just go to the field across the across
the way or to the beach across the street to play in the snow. There
is also a sledding hill about a mile down the road and plenty of
places to eat in Tahoe Vista and Tahoe City. www.rusticcottages.com
We just took our 5 y.o. to Yosemite (by public transportation:
Amtrak to Merced, then linked bus right to our lodging, Yosemite
Lodge). It's so easy to get around, and snow was just outside, and
everywhere. The shuttle stops at many places, there are little
sledding hills, nature walks, etc, an ice-skating rink, and a free
shuttle goes to Badger Pass, which has a modest ski area, snow
tubing, X-country skiing. Package deals let children and their
families sample everything, and there's a ski program designed for
4-6 y.olds, in case they want to do more than an hour introductory
lesson. We had lots of fun, and there were lots of other families
with children who were friendly and accessible. Being there without
a car was a treat and very easy.
I'm looking for a place for a weekend vacation for multiple families (about
3-6) with small children (all 5 years old and under) in the snow this winter. I
thought possibly renting a house or two near each other might be fun. Any
We've stayed at The Cabins at Strawberry
(http://cabinsatstrawberry.com/) and they're great. It's just
the setup you'd want for multiple familes. Each cabin can
accomodate 2-3 familes, and they're right next to each other, so
you can rent 2-3 cabins and all be together. They have full
kitchens, 2 bedrooms & 1 bath upstairs, 1 bedroom & 1 bath
downstairs. The prices are very reasonable. Nearby is a fairly
expensive snow-play park where you can rent innertubes and the
like, but there's plenty of snow around in the winter for
informal play. Enjoy!
I always suggest Park City, Utah (I live here, so I may be
biased). It is faster to hop on a flight from Oakland and drive
up to Park City than it is to drive to Tahoe. Better snow,too.
I have organized similar trips of 35-40 people for my own group
of friends for the last several years, both in the snow and
I recommend renting vacation homes in the Serene Lakes / Soda
Springs for a snow trip with multiple families with young
children. I selected this location for our trip last year, based
on a number of criteria, and it worked really well.
My criteria included:
There is snow on the ground pretty reliably, given the high
elevation (7000 ft.). This is especially helpful with young
children, to go in and out freely for snow play, for varying
lengths of time, without having to drive.
It is near several ski resorts, for those who want to go skiing
It is hilly enough in the immediate area to provide low-key
informal sledding opportunities. The Serene Lakes also freeze
over, allowing a large level area for snow play.
It is easy to identify and rent homes in close proximity because
Castle Peak Rentals (www.castlepeak.com) rents most of the homes
in the area and can help you identify homes that are close to
each other. The reservation section of their website provides
the actual addresses of the homes, allowing you to identify the
home locations for yourself.
There are some homes large enough to function as a central
gathering place for the group. We were very happy with Groves
home, with a large indoor hot tub and sizeable living area, and
there are many other alternatives.
There are reasonable prices for very nice vacation homes.
It is easy driving distance from the Bay Area. It is at Donner
Summit, which is about a 3 hour drive from the East Bay, on
If you want to hire someone to help plan your trip, I would be
happy to be your travel coordinator. I can help with identifying
lodging to meet your needs, juggling who stays where, organizing
meals, planning activities and outings, etc.
i want to take my 4 and 1 year old to see the snow for the first time.
bpn has some recomendations but does any one know anything about
sno-parks in particular and cheap hotels to stay in nearby? are they
crowded/good place for such little kids? also, when is the earliest
that we can expect snow in these areas?
What we discovered last winter was Highway 4 was the quickest, easiest place
to go play in the snow. It is closer to the Bay Area than going up near Tahoe
and much less traffic than Hwy 80. Just a few miles up from Arnold is about
where the snow line is. There are small hotels, nice hotels, and cabins
generally in the area. There is, I believe, one official snow park that you
can pay to get into. There are shops in Arnold right on the highway to rent
equipment or buy sleds. Bear Valley Ski place is a bit further up the road.
But we found a couple places where CalTrans plows the side of the road and
people just park and climb up the hill. Free and plenty of fun for little
kids. They will get tired pretty quick, remember.
We also stayed one night at the Dorrington Inn. It is a bed and breakfast
with smallish rooms, but a nice accommodating staff. They have a big back
yard, and they let us play there, build a snowman, and slide down a groomed
driveway. That is an option as well. www.dorringtoninn.com/ Bryan
As I shudder at the thought of traffic and chains on any of the snow routes
(Hwys 80, 50 or 4), I recommend driving to Roseville and getting on the
Amtrak to Truckee or Reno. The mountain route is beautiful. Taking the train
to the snow from Emeryville takes 8 hours, so driving halfway is much easier
with little kids. You don't really need a sno-park for toddlers and
preschoolers, just a saucer in a city park will be fine. City parks in Reno
are very accessible via the city's excellent bus system. However, I haven't
found lodging in either place that is walking distance to the Amtrak stations
that I can recommend, so maybe someone else has a good idea about that.
I would love to take my one year old twins to the snow some time in
March and I am looking for recommendations for family friendly places
to stay, ideally a little cabin or house to rent, where you can walk
from lodging to sledding, cross country skiing etc. It would be nice to
avoid having to drive to activities. We are happy to go to tahoe,
yosemite or anywhere in-between where there is snow in March. Thank
Kirkwood. It's easier to drive to (3.25 hours from East Bay),
the drive is more beautiful than Hwy 80, you won't have to
drive once you're there, and there will definitely still be
snow in March! If you stay in The Meadows, or Sun Meadows or
Sentinels or Base Camp, you will be right next to the Meadow
with ample room to sled. There is a great cross-country ski
trail right there too. There is a shuttle bus on weekends that
goes back and forth from one end of Kirkwood to the other
(which your 1 year olds will love - my two-year old loves it).
It is a good family friendly ski resort minus the attitude.
We went to Soda Springs Resort this week during the President's
Day break. My 4 yr old and 6 yr old loved it!
They have an area called Planet kids where the little ones can
ride the innertube carousel, learn to ski on a baby hill and
innertube down a slope.
My kids were too big for the carousel, but the 1-3 yr olds
seemed to love it.
Soda offers two tubing tows that take you to the top of the
tubing runs. All you have to do is sit in the tube on the way
up, and enjoy the fun on the way down.
The kids have to be at least 42 inches tall.
I noticed rental cabins on the road to the snow park which are
within walking distance. We will try that out next time.
Looking for that holy grail: a relatively affordable resort or
hotel with onsite babysitting where 7 adults and 2 toddlers can
be happy spending Xmas together. We'd like to go somewhere in
Southern CA (LA, Santa Barbara, San Diego) or possibly Las Vegas.
An alternative would be a great big condo without babysitting but
with amenities like a pool to keep the kids happy. Any
don't want to spend Xmas in the car
Check out Montecito Sequoia.
It's beautiful, provides food, babysitting, snow play, cross crountry
skiing and accommodations for families of all sizes
Been There Many Times
we want to take a vacation over the holidays that includes snow-
it doesn't have to be downhill skiing or snowboarding, just
enough snow that my 3 year-old will be able to frolic. we
would like an alternative to Tahoe, anywhere within a 5 hour
drive from the East Bay.
snow lovin' mama
Reviews received (click for full review)
Arnold (2 reviews)
Lassen (2 reviews)
Yosemite (3 reviews)
The Boreal Ski Resort was the answer for us, right off I-80.
Perfect for a little snow vacation. Overnight stay was
reasonable. Breakfast was provided in the small lobby and you
can take it to your room. Bring your own dinner or lunch. Your
room has a fridge and a microwave. Consider it indoor camping.
(The nearby resort cafeteria has mostly overpriced junk food
with the noisy atmosphere of grand central station). We had a
lot of fun there and we came prepared. We were looking for
something close by without all these curvy mountain roads,
something that is practical and affordable and has snow play
for kids. All criteria were met. The drive was 3 hours.
Would go there again
Have you considered the area around Dodge Ridge? Leland High
Sierra Snow Play Area is a great place for kids from 1-99 who
don't ski but want to have fun in the snow. It has a lodge area
where you can warm up with some hot chocolate and some snacks
and they have EMT's on staff. You rent an innertube (very
reasonable) or bring your own plastic saucer (no metal or wood
allowed) and slide down a groomed hillside. Twain Harte is
nearby and so is Pinecrest for lodging or you could go to Sonora.
See the link below for more information. It's a great place I
highly recomend and it's much better than just stopping by the
side of the road to slide down a snowy hill.
Last year we went to Grass Valley and just drove up into the
mountains until we got to the snow. Then we drove off down a
plowed forest service road for half a mile, parked and played for
a couple of hours. We weren't terribly well prepared (we had warm
clothes, but no toys). Someone lent us a saucer sled for a little
while, and we also found a plastic folder in the car that was
pretty good for sliding on. It was a lot of fun, and fulfilled my
child's desire for snow without leading to any of the negatives
of snow like lots of money and tire chains.
Mom of a kid who wanted to touch snow
We're thinking ahead to winter and would like a place to go for
a weekend (or up to a week) where we can play in the snow with
our two small kids and our dog.
Any recommendations on a kid and dog-friendly hotel/inn/cabin?
We're open to Tahoe (went there as a kid a lot, but it's sooo
different now) as well as any other place. Ideally, we don't
want to drive more than 3-4 hours and we're on a limited budget.
I checked the website, but only saw one listing for a place that
would take dogs...
Thanks in advance
every winter we go to Homewood lake tahoe with our two big dogs
and baby boy to this place where the people are wonderful and
there is a big state park where you can let the dogs run or do
some snowshoes it is so wonderful
the name is Tahoma Meadows and i believe they have a website to
look at the cabin .
Check out Sorensens Resort in South Lake Tahoe. It is great. Little wooden cabins in
the snow. Lots of sleds on site to borrow. A wood fired communal sauna and dogs are
welcome in some of their cabins. I highly recommend.
Hi , last winter we took kids and dog to a nice house near south lake Tahoe. The house
is clearly designed for kids and the back yard is very large and open out to a creek.
There is a crate for the dog and even complimetary dog biscuits. we found the place
through Tahoe Keys Resort . their number is (800) My Tahoe, and web site is
www.caltahoe.com. Good luck.
I am interested in recommendations for family lodging in snow
country. Ideally, we would love something close to a ski
resort so that we can trade off child care
responsibilities/skiing. We also want to be close to
sledding. Has anyone ever rented one of the cabins near Soda
Springs? Anyone have any ideas near Bear Valley? We don't
care what part of the Sierra we go to as long as we find a good
place to stay that accommodates skiing, sledding and isn't
A great fun family place in the snow is at my family's
lovely new cabin in Tahoe Meadows at South Lake Tahoe, located
in an environmental preserve on the Lake directed below the
Heavenly Valley Ski Resort. We are happy to share this
wonderful spot with other responsible families. The gondola to
the top of the mountain is a 5 minute walk across the street.
There is also a free shuttle on the road behind my cabin to
My kids enjoy the sledding on the free sledding hill at the top
of Ski Run Blvd. which is a 5 minute car ride or on the shuttle
route. Casinos, shops, restaurants are all in walking distance;
yet the cabin is in a gated natural area with woods and a one
mile private beach.
You can check out the cabin details at
Please call me (510) 236-5988 or email with questions or for
Kay Starkweather kstarkwe AT library.berkeley.edu
We have a cabin near Bear Valley. If you email me what you are
looking for, I can send you our info and rates.
amelliott21 AT earthlink.net
We've rented twice now with Soda Springs Rentals
(once in the snow and once in the summer) and we plan to do so
again this winter. The houses around Serene Lakes that are
available for renting thru this company have been spacious and
well stocked for cooking and lots of kids. They are definitely
reminiscent of the ''70's era''. We found sledding behind Ice
Lakes Lodge (and behind our own cabin!), but we weren't ready to
take our kids out on skis (downhill or cross-country). But there
was plenty of it nearby which it sounds like you would want.
You can check out the lodging options and prices available thru
Soda Springs at their website www.sodaspringsrentals.com. Good
Soda springs is a great place to rent a house, great sledding
hill nearby, Royal Gorge Cross Country, Sugar Bowl for
downhill, Soda Springs for tubing and beginner downhill. Try
castlepeaks vacation rentals.
I am interested in recommendation for places to go for a quick
snow trip from the east bay. I have consulted the web site and
nothing quite matches what I'm looking for.
What I'm looking for is very simple snow play - a small hill for
sledding and enough room to make a snow man, throw snowballs,
make snow angels, etc., for young children (2 1/2 - 4 years old).
I would like the least driving possible from the Berkeley/Albany
area. Lodging can be motels, cabins, house rentals, or other
options, preferably cheap. I would prefer to avoid crowded areas
like snow parks. A modest hill near the lodging would be perfect.
I wrote a while ago asking for places to go for informal snow
play with a minimum of driving from the East Bay. I have my own
experiences to share, as well as a couple personal responses to
my earlier post that I'd like to include for other people's
We went on a quick trip in February to the Cisco Grove stop on I-
80, which is shortly before Donner Pass. We stayed overnight in
Auburn and drove the rest of the way in the morning, but it can
also be done in a 1-day round trip. There is a restaurant, gas
station, and informal snow play area, with plenty of room for
sledding, tubing, making snowmen, etc. On the day we went, the
snow was pretty dry because it hadn't snowed recently, but it
was still a good introduction to the snow.
We just returned from a great 3-day snow weekend in Truckee. We
rented a vacation home from Donner Lake Realty (www.donner-
lake.com, (800) 392-5253). The house we rented was #58 on their
site, on Cottonwood Street, near Maple, with a great informal
snow play area at the end of the block. They have several rental
houses in that area. The weather and snow conditions were great.
There are several ski resorts nearby. It took just over 2 1/2
hours to get there, at off-peak traffic hours.
The personal e-mails I received with other snow trip
recommendations are included below:
I saw your post on UCB looking for snow play areas. In 2 weeks
we're going to the Strawberry Cabins which is south of Lake
Tahoe/ north of Yosemite. It is near a snow play area (uh oh,
probably crowded), but the cabins sound really lovely. It is,
apparently, one of the closest snow guaranteed areas to the bay
Here is their web site
Sally, we just did a really fun, super-cheap snow trip with our
3 year old and 2 year old. We just drove up I-80 to the rest
area at the top of Donner pass! It has a bunch of really gentle
hills that are great for sledding. We didn't even have sleds,
we just used garbage bags. We went sledding, threw snowballs,
made a snowman, made snow angels, then got back in the car,
drank our thermos of hot chocolate and ate our picnic lunch, and
drove back home. Totally cheap, and a good time was had by all!
Incidentally, we had stopped off at one of the commercial
sledding/tubing places, and found it to be crowded and
expensive, so we ended up just pressing on and found the rest
My 5 year-old wants to see snow. We, the parents, are not
exactly snow enthusiasts (we had too much of it), nor do we ski
or like windy mountain roads, but Tahoe seems like the closest
place for a weekend trip to the snow. Do you know of an
inexpensive place to stay where one could just have fun building
snowmen and alike? We are on a tight budget since one of us
just got laid off, but I'd still like to make this happen. A
motel room would do. We don't need a fully furnished house.
As an alternative to Tahoe, I would recommend the Bear Valley
area. It's east of Stockton on Hwy 4. Only 3 hrs to get there
and a much easier drive than Tahoe. On the other hand fewer
motels, but I have noticed some--if you search around on the
web you should find them.
Idon't have a very specific recommendation for you (we DO ski!)
but suggest that you not go all the way to Tahoe. Look for
places to stay in the Grass Valley area -- I'm pretty sure
they've got snow that low right now, you won't have to deal with
winding roads, and you'll avoid the worst of the ski resort
As for where to build a snowman, look here:
You can get a one-day Sno Park permit for $5.
One note of caution about where you stay: Fireplaces and
laundry facilities are *really* nice after a day of snow play.
You might be a lot happier in 'lodge' type accomodations, which
is usually cheaper than renting a house, but offers a lot of
amenities you won't find in a motel.
We just spent Christmas up at Tahoe, and I was looking for a
somewhat similar experience to what you describe. Basically, I
wanted to be up in the snow, but not necessarily to go skiing. I
wanted to hang out, maybe go skating and walk around town while
enjoying Christmas lights, hot cocoa and the view of the lake
We stayed at the Fireside Lodge B&B -- myself, my husband, our
baby and my mother-in-law. The rates were $85 - $165.00 per
night, and we were on the upper end of that because we stayed in
a condo, but it was one of the better deals I found for cabin-
style accomodations on the web. I found the lodgings at the
Fireside Lodge to be perfectly fine -- they provide motel-style
rooms, cabins and a condo for rent. The owners are really nice
people, very knowledgeble about the area and they really bent
over backwards to make sure we had a nice stay.
That said, I didn't really enjoy South Lake Tahoe much at all,
other than the food and the day trip boat cruise we went on. The
area along the South Shore is centered on the highway strip that
goes around the lake and there's not really a ''town'' area --
it's just motels and buildings and shops an either side of the
highway, which isn't really what I was looking for. It's amply
evident that the focus of the area is on catering to the ski
slopes and in Stateline, the casinos. There is a nice wilderness
area not far beyond Emerald Bay, and there's a local park in
South Lake Tahoe that looked pretty nice and you might be able
to go there to build a snowman.
There may also be other towns around the lake that offer more of
a ''hometown'' sort of feel, but between Emerald Bay and
Stateline, that's not what we found. You also really need to
have a car to get anywhere, especially if the snow is deep,
because it's really really hard to walk around with no sidewalk,
when the snow is up to your hips and you don't have snowshoes. I
would however, highly recommend the boat cruise on the lake on
the M.S. Dixie II. We were able to sit back, enjoy views of the
lake, and the audio about the lake's history and geography were
We have often stayed at Echo Lodge (off of Hwy 50 near Echo
Lake). It is part of the California Alpine Club. They have a
lodge at Tahoe and up on top of Mt. Tam. You can stay for about
$11 per adult and $8 per child, which includes all your meals!
However, it is a family hostel, not a hotel. So, you have to
join CAC and pay annual dues (about $85/year). The lodges have
both private rooms and dormitories. You eat communal meals and
everyone signs up to help once during the day in the kitchen, or
setting the table, etc. Our family has really enjoyed meeting
other families, going on group hikes, and sharing in meal
preparation, etc. It is definitely a ''deal'', but you have to
enjoy this type of hosteling. I think California Alpine Club has
a web-site with more information. They also host lots of events
at the club up on Mt. Tam.
Tubing Day Trip
I remember seeing from time to time on TV shots of a ski place, I think off
of 80 somewhere, that is pretty darned lowkey and not too expensive. I
recall seeing a ropetow like device hauling kids in saucers up to the top
of a hill. We'd like to take our 10 and 7 year old to the snow, but we can't
afford much, so the idea would be to head out at like 6:00 AM, spend a few
hours going up and down this hill, and then driving back. Does anyone know
the place I'm describing, or have ideas of how we might accomplish this very
basic "snow experience?"
Soda Springs has a very fun tubing set up where a rope
tow pulls giant inner tubes up the mountain. The kids
go down one of 4 set tracks, with curves, bumps, etc.
They also have a rope tow to take a saucer up to the
top but the inner tubes are the best! about
$10/person for 2 hours. And the adults enjoy it
almost as much as the kids. If you have skis the kids
can ski and tube for around $1215 each all day. It's
less than 3 hours from bay area take Norden exit and
it's less than a mile from 80. Christine
The place you're thinking of may be at Kingvale, just this side of Donner
Summit off Highway 80. They have a rope tow and rent huge inner tubes
(more fun than saucers, according to the experts in my family) that the kids
ride down the hill. It's about 2 1/2 hours (weather permitting) from the East
Bay, 50 miles or so past Auburn. Can't remember the cost, but it's definitely
cheaper than skiing; you can rent by the hour or half day. I recommend bringing
a folding chair, something to read, and a thermos of coffee if you're planning on
watching for any length of time. There's also a little stand that sells hot
chocolate for the kids. Nina
Soda Springs ski resort (Soda Springs exit off I80) is small, inexpensive,
and very familyoriented. It also offers tubing: a kind of ropetow pulls
you up on a giant inner tube and then you ride it down. There is a combined
ski/tubing lift ticket: $20 for adult, $16 ages 817. I think there is a
cheaper tubingonly ticket. Peggy
I have been looking for the same and found Leland Meadows, here is the
Have not yet visited. Sally
We recently went to Sonora, which is only 120 miles away (going 580
east and then connecting to 120 to 108). Anyway, just 20 minutes east
of Sonora we found some great sledding areas free. There's one place
that they call "Little Sweden" (no sign or anything, I think it's the
local name) but it was a great hill and a lot of people were sledding
and tubing down it. Further north in Strawberry, we found another commonly
used informal site....again, a lot of tubing and sledding. We did go check
out "Leland Meadows", where you pay for access to the hill, but they
didn't even have rope towing and their hill didn't particularly impress
us, was very crowded, etc. so we just headed back to the informal sites.
Had a lot of fun, and is very accessible for a day trip. And you avoid
all the traffic on I80. Suzanne
Weekend Visit to the Snow
I would like to know where are the best (not
necessarily the most popular) places, not farther than
4h driving, to spend a weekend playing in the snow and
enjoying outside activities with 2 preschoolers.
Simona (Dec 1999)
In response to the families who would like to visit the snow, I would
highly recommend Soresen's
(916) 694-2203 or (800) 423-9949. They are located in Hope Valley, only 1/2
hour from South Lake
Tahoe. Sorensen's is a cluster of cabins, most all of which have cooking
facilities. Prices range
from $80-200. The last time we stayed there, we rented a cabin with a
bedroom, living room (with a
futon for extra sleeping), eating area and kitchen for about $110. There's
also a very good restaurant,
where you can get breakfast, lunch or dinner. No TV or phones in the rooms,
but there is a phone
available in the main cabin.
Hope Valley is isolated and quiet. In fact, there's really nothing there
except Sorensen's. You can
rent ski equipment at a place just down the road and get ski lessons. There
are many cross-country
trails in the area, including a large meadow area just across the road and
a long, easy trail about
2 minutes away that also has a bunny hill for sledding.
If you want to ski on groomed trails (and pay a trail fee), Kirkwood is
just about 15 minutes away. Also,
Markleville is nearby--a small town where you can buy groceries--and Grover
HotSprings is just 5
minutes outside Markleville.
The hotsprings are like a giant hottub: great for soaking after skiing.
I also think you can get dogsled rides (we haven't done that, but I've seen
the dogs out on the meadow)
and sleigh rides. My husband and I go up every winter for the skiing and
the peace & quiet. We haven't
yet gone with kids (ours is just 1 month old), but I've seen little kids
sledding and skiing there. I
think it would be ideal: we plan to go with baby as soon as she's old enough.
Lake Tahoe, actually right around the lake, is *great* for sled-riding --
there is a public park with a nice big hill, with a long flat spot at the
bottom so you don't end up in the lake. Call the realty offices in Tahoe
and someone will find you a rental condo. Take another family along to
split the cost and let the overflow of kids have a sleepover in the living room.
Some of the Tahoe ski resorts have great cross-country skiing -- I've been
to Squaw. I saw a lot of babies in backpacks on the trail.
Economical Snow Getaways
During the holidays (and after), I would like to take my 2 children ages 6
and 10 to the snow for sledding, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, or
even snow boarding. And making snowpeople, of course. They will need
lessons for the skiiing/snowboarding as they have no experience (and I have
Can anyone recommend places to go? Ideally, the more economical the better.
Last winter we went to Bear Valley and rented a hotel room in February for
2 nights. Had a good time but would like to see if we can avoid the room
costs and concentrate on a full day of lessons, snow fun.
Should we rent skis here and take them up? We have a 4-wheel drive. Will
we still need chains? (You can tell I'm inexperienced when it comes to
Just a reply to Kathleen K. on the snow trip. I would advise
renting wherever you go for 2 reasons...1.) in case the equipment
breaks or you want to switch lengths or go from skis to boards
(important for a 10 year old!), you can exchange it immediately at the
ski area instead of being stuck with it; and reason #2.) is because
wet, long, sharp (those edges are sharp) skis in the back of your 4
wheel will still take up alot of room and possibly cut your
upholstery, suitcases, etc.
Second note is that even with a 4 wheel drive, go slower than you
think you should on wet pavement. If you break all four wheels loose
at the same time (i.e. on black ice or super slushy snow), you will
spin just like any other car. Chains work great but can be very
tiring for long distances.
Beyond that, have fun. Personal favorite places to ski (as a kid and
with kids) are Sugarbowl and Homewood and Mt Shasta Ski Park. Family
places; big wide bowls to goof around in, great views and friendly
Re: Ski suits/equipment
Check all the thrift shops. I bought the entire gear for myself under
$10.00. I always rent the skis so I don't know about skis but have
found disc & sleds. I didn't care for NorthStar but loved Boreal near
Truckee, great place for young kids (4, 6, 10, 12, 14 yr). I've only
gone twice first time 2/95 and on 12/14/97.
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